Where Does Karate Originate From?

Karate is an unarmed discipline that utilizes striking, kicking and defensive blocking using legs and arms.

This martial art places great emphasis on using as much of the body as possible, harnessing personal power using instantaneous impact. 

People use karate to strike surfaces with their hands and legs, using the knuckles and outer edges of the palms, alongside the forearm, knees and elbows.

Those who practice karate are toughened up using practice blows against surfaces that are padded or blocks of wood. Karate has proven that wooden boards made of pine can be broken using the bare hand, irrespective of their thickness. 

Where Does Karate Originate From?

Karate employees tactics, timing and heart. These three attributes are regarded as highly as physical power and this is what makes karate such a wonderfully empowering martial art.

Within sporting forms of karate, blows can be stopped within an inch of contact. These matches also typically last for three minutes if neither participant has scored a “killing” point. 

There are also contests based on form that are known as kata.

During these competitions, competitors are required to perform a series of predetermined movements that simulate counterattacks and defensive poses against a number of opponents.

They are then scored by a panel, similarly to other sports like gymnastics or diving. 

What Are The Origins Of Karate?

Karate originates from East Asia and has evolved over the centuries. It became systematized during the 17th century in Okinawa and became incorporated in Japan during the 1920s.

There are a number of systems and schools that have developed their own individual training methodologies and techniques. 

Karate places great emphasis on rituals, courtesy, mental agility, costumes and a complicated system of ranking that uses different colors of belts. Some karate techniques also overlap with other forms of martial art. 

Is Karate Chinese Or Japanese?

Karate originates from China where it was first developed using the name Kung-Fu. A number of economic and cultural exchanges with the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa) enabled it to develop into a martial art that was known as Tode. 

There isn’t much information in regard to the exact origins of karate prior to it appearing in the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa). In fact, many people may consider it to be a martial art derived from Japan.

However, the word itself literally translates as “china hand” and its origins have been traced to Southern China, forming from two other martial art traditions, White Crane Kung-Fu and Shaolin. 

Shaolin Kung-Fu & White Crane Kung-Fu

Monks who were studying at the renowned Shaolin Temple learnt a vast amount about martial arts including styles such as: Luohan Quan, Zui Quan, Yingzhao Quan, Tangland Quan, Xingyi Quan, and Tantui.

These specific styles had a striking influence on the development of Shuri-Te and other offsprings of the art like Shotokan, Shito-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu. All of these styles formed the basis of Shaolin Kung-Fu. 

Comparatively, white crane kung-fu is a style that was developed in Southern China, originating from the Fujian province. This particular system was crafted through watching the movements of the crane.

It is characterized by its attitude and variety of ways to form an attack. It is also characterized by its hand-to-hand combat style. 

The Journey Of Karate

During the 14th century, there were many cultural exchanges between the Kingdom of Ryukyu and China.

As such, Chinese martial arts began to take precedence in Ryukyu, combining the preexisting local varieties of martial arts and transforming them into a combined martial art known as Tode, which would soon be known as Karate. 

The centralized location of the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa) meant that it was inherently influenced by the cultures of Japan and China through numerous years of cultural exchanges and trading.

Throughout the history of Okinawa, it has established several strong cultural ties with China, in particular, developing a tributary relationship with the country after the 14th century.

After the 14th century, many Chinese people relocated to Ryukyu (Okinawa) in order to engage in business and the cultures began to merge inherently.

After these ties were established, many kings of the Ryukyu Kingdom would send members of the upper class across to China in order to study various disciplines, including martial arts.

Thus, between the 17th-20th century, many influential martial artists such as Sakugawa Kanga, Peichin Takahara and Bushi Sokon arrived in China in order to study martial arts, bringing imperative knowledge back to the Ryukyu Kingdom. 

Then, in 1609, a Japanese clan known as the Satsuma Clan, started their invasion of the Ryukyu Kingdom. This created a further merge of cultures. Then, in 1879, Japan was annexed to the Ryukyu Kingdom which inherently formed Okinawa. 

Four Main Styles Of Karate

There are many forms of Tode that were derived by the 19th century. These were then developed into the Tomari, Naha and Shuri styles. Nowadays, in Japan, there are even more styles of Karate.

The most popular of these are Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Shotokan and Shito-Ryu. Whereas, in Okinawan, Uechi-Ryu and Gojo-Ryu are more popular styles. 

One thing is for certain, every style of karate is directly descended from the ancient Tode practice that was developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. 

Four Main Styles Of Karate


To conclude, karate or tode was formed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. The upper-classes were greatly influenced by Chinese culture during the 14th century and studied the ancient art of Kung-Fu before sculpting their own techniques and styles that are commonly known as karate practices.

Karate is greatly influenced by both Chinese and Japanese culture and is practiced world-wide to this day.

It is important to remember the origins of this martial art, and to pay respect to the years of development that have formed its mastery.

This martial art is renowned for placing great emphasis on courteous respect and its practice and origins should be respected accordingly. 

Christopher Anderson
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